WAYNE, NJ – This year, the election does not happen on just one day. It is happening now and will be ongoing until 8:00 p.m. on November 3. Because of the Presidential election, it is likely that many more people will be voting than normal, and many voters have no idea who any of the Wayne Board of Education candidates are. This article is to allow you to hear from these candidates and help inform your vote.
There are four candidates running for three Board of Education BOE seats in this upcoming election. To help Wayne residents understand the importance of the election and the positions held by each candidate, TAPinto has asked each candidate to answer three questions.
- Why should Wayne residents vote for you?
- What are three pressing issues that the BOE will be facing in the future?
- Which of the other candidates are you supporting for the board?
Each BOE term is three years and the seats currently held by President of the BOE Cathy Kazan, Trustee, Don Pavlak and Trustee, Sean Duffy are up for election. All three are running for re-election while the fourth candidate is Abigail Giordano, the daughter of current Trustee, Matthew Giordano. Their replies are listed in alphabetical order by last name.
1. Why should Wayne residents vote for you?
I am a dedicated Wayne resident whose actions on this Board will directly affect my family, especially my children. I’m the only candidate on the ballot who has young children in the district. I’m a small business owner, taxpayer and Paterson firefighter that understands the burden of mismanagement of government.
I volunteer my time to this community, coaching t-ball and football and I volunteer to this Board, as well as other community programs.
In my three years on this board, with my fellow colleagues, we’ve accomplished three major goals; two of the three were unexpected.
- The first: School security. A few months after I was elected, we were dealt with community concerns about school safety after the deadly mass shootings in Parkland, Florida. I sat on a committee that was formed for school safety. We introduced new initiatives and created policy to keep everyone safe in our schools.
- The second: After my first year, the Board decided to take action on a promise I had made for full day kindergarten. Not only did we deliver on the promise, but there are some voters who might disagree with full day kindergarten. To those, I have to say this: This was not only about full day kindergarten but about saving the Preakness School. The building was falling in disrepair, so we killed two birds with one stone: giving the early childhood development a central place, and opening up classrooms to allow full day kindergarten in our schools.
- The third: COVID-19. This was unexpected and no one thought that this would have lasted as long as it has. As Chairman of the technology committee, I'm proud of the work we've done. We’ve rolled out hundreds of Chromebooks to students that we didn’t expect to need them. We’re working on new technology that will make the classroom more virtual. We also gave the teachers all the tools they needed to teach from a distance. I will agree that there are some flaws. Believe me I know. I’m homeschooling my first grader. But I believe that this board has done a good job in keeping our children, staff and educators safe.
By choosing me, the citizens of Wayne are going to be voting for a hardworking and dedicated servant for a great education in Wayne. I pledge to be a consistent and attentive trustee. You will have a municipal servant with a unique perspective of a recent graduate who found the Wayne school system so exceptional that I wish to return the favor and serve the professionals that gave me such a great education. I have a passion for finances and with the majority of our taxes going to school, I wish to put my fiscal skills forward to make the Wayne School systems an even better system than it already is.
I believe voters should re-elect me because I have always been here to serve them and our community. I make myself available to residents and I care about our students first and foremost. Many good things have happened since I joined the Board seven years ago. Most importantly, we have the same Superintendent for the past six years. Stable leadership is the only way a school district can successfully move forward. Many education goals and initiatives take years to complete. Having that continuity year over year is what has helped us to successfully achieve many goals.
Here are just a few of the accomplishments:
- K-Wrap program – Making this available to parents at an affordable cost was the first step in our multiyear plan to implement Full Day Kindergarten.
- Early Childhood Center – Phase II of the three year implementation plan. Opened September 2020.
- On track to implement Full Day Kindergarten in September 2021.
- Energy Savings Improvement Plans – Replacing most of the boilers districtwide as well as lighting and controls. These initiatives paid for themselves in reduced energy costs. These energy efficient projects not only earned our district sustainability awards; we also received grant money for additional projects.
- Updated Science labs at our high schools to improve STEM education. This is an ongoing goal.
- Administrator mentoring program – encouraging employees to move up in our district.
- Professional development program on site. This program has not just saved money, but has made training more accessible to our staff at their convenience.
- As a member of the Legislative and Finance Committees at the NJSBA, I have joined my colleagues statewide to lobby successfully for increased funding for Wayne. We have also halted legislation which would have placed an unfair burden on our taxpayers. We even lobbied in Washington for increased IDEA funding for our special needs students.
- Roof replacements, paving, bathroom upgrades and countless improvements to our schools district wide, including new turf fields at both high schools.
- One to one computers districtwide. Implementing this 21st century technology was a multiyear plan.
There is a reason families choose Wayne. Education is first and foremost. I take this position very seriously. I am also a Wayne taxpayer and mother of a 2010 graduate. I know the schools were a top priority for me when I moved here 28 years ago. I believe the next three years are pivotal and will require an experienced board trustee to help guide us through.
My reasons for running for another term on the Wayne School Board had not changed from the first time I ran. I am committed to maintaining academic excellence for all students, fostering engaged citizenship among our youth, and promoting continued fiscal responsibility with our tax dollars. I am privileged to be involved with the decisions that affect our children and our community. I will continue to be an engaged board member, a collaborator, a decision-maker, and a leader for our district.
Our school district faces infinite challenges with the Coronavirus Pandemic, online-distance learning, meeting special education requirements, and students' and staff's mental health. I want to use my leadership, communication skills on behalf of our district as we navigate these issues, and I believe my experience on the Board will be an asset.
I want to thank the community who has entrusted me with this critical role during my last term. It has been my honor and privilege to serve you. I look for your continued support by voting to re-elect me to the school board. I would be honored to continue to represent you.
2. What are three pressing issues that the BOE will be facing in the future?
One: given the pandemic, full day kindergarten and funding for full day kindergarten could be in jeopardy if this board does not stay the way it is.
Two: New housing developments within our town and school space. This reverts back to the Preakness School. If the Township does allow the development of more apartments and housing, we are going to have more students. Had we not invested in the Preakness School, we'd be looking at trying to build a new school, which is still not out of the realm of possibility, depending on how many new residential housing units will be built.
Three: Our budget and money coming back from the state to the district. This was a major issue when I first ran. We were getting cents on the dollar. That’s turned around, and we get more money back than we’ve had in the past. That's going to be a pressing issue moving forward, because of the pandemic. It remains to be seen whether we're going to receive all that money or not.
One of the most pressing issues, that is not a hot-button topic, but should be, is mental health. Safety, security, dignity and self-worth are all ideas that should be emphasized in education, especially during these historically trying times. With the extra pressure on our students and staff during these hybrid education times the ideas of helping students and staff deal with the extra tension and pressure should be a priority for the board and administration, it is an easily overlooked issue that must be given time and energy.
I can think of many, but here are three that immediately come to mind:
- Start thinking long range with regard to the housing uptick in Wayne. There have been several developments recently approved, and it looks like more to come. We need to seek an updated demographic study to see which schools will be impacted and come up with strategies to handle the incoming students. We also need to analyze how this may affect our budget. Will rateables increase or go down?
- Keep a close eye on our budget as we do not know what the future will hold with regard to funding from state and federal sources in the era of COVID. We also have to be mindful of how we will accomplish our long-range goals, without unduly burdening our local taxpayers.
- Continue to focus on student achievement and the impact of lost instructional time in the spring. Distance learning started with very short notice and has definitely had an impact. We need to discuss strategies to prevent students from falling behind. I believe we also need to continue to monitor student’s well-being and how all of this change is affecting them.
If re-elected to the school board, I will ensure the continued academic excellence, which our district has delivered. As a member representing our community and stakeholders, I will work with our administration and faculty to continue to provide quality education, including online distance learning, professional development for our staff, meeting special education requirements to provide the most optimal learning experience during these unprecedented times.
We must continue to have an open dialogue among our Board, administration, teachers, and community so that concerns may be heard and addressed promptly. Additionally, I will maintain the district's overall focus on equity and inclusion using awareness, developing acceptance, and building resilience on these issues.
3. Which of the other candidates are you supporting for the board?
The way it stands now, we all work well together. I don't believe there's a reason to change the current dynamic of the board. It's not perfect, but we have accomplished major goals and I see no reason to change. So, I support current members Cathy Kazan and Don Pavlak.
I wish to send the best of luck to all my opponents and may we have a clean, well-run election in the tradition of all other American elections.
One Board member does not accomplish anything alone. It takes a team of experienced, dedicated members to keep the district on track and focused on priorities. I don’t see a need to change the current Board.
I believe that every candidate for the school board's unique talents can contribute to the district. Collaborating, as a team with my fellow board members is one of the characteristics which creates an environment that allows for healthy discussion and sound decision making. As board members, we must always keep our eye on the target, our children. That should be every school board member's ultimate focus.